The phrase "the world over" was used in an article from The Economist. I'm curious to know its origin.

  • 1
    Since over is an adverb that has been used since Old English ofer to mean (among other things) "across an entire region," it is unlikely that "the world over" is unique enough to pinpoint its origin.
    – Robusto
    May 7, 2019 at 18:10

2 Answers 2


In short, the preposition "over" can sometime occur after its object in a pseudo-adverbial sense. According to the OED*:

In the above senses [In or on all or many parts of; everywhere (or here and there) on the surface of; throughout.] often placed after its object, esp. when this is modified by all or the like (cf. through prep. 4b). Frequently in the world over.

For the corresponding use in reference to time, as in ‘all the year over’, in which over may be explained adverbially, see sense A. 19b. Even in the present sense, in phrases such as ‘all the world over’, it is difficult to separate the preposition from the adverb when the associated verb admits of both transitive and intransitive construction: cf. ‘you may search London over (= London from end to end) before you find another like it’.

It's been used since at least Middle English:

Wars Alexander (Ashm.) 18 (MED) Alexsandire..aȝte euyn as his awyn all the werd ouire.

*Note: non-academic networks might not have access to this link.

  • 1
    The full text for the Middle English quote can be found here.
    – Laurel
    May 7, 2019 at 18:24

Sir Walter Raleigh, 1614:

And though the City of Dodona was not then built,or (perchance) not so ancient as Dedanim himselfe, yet his Posterity might give it that name in the memory of their first 23 Parent, as it hapned all the World over.

I find a couple of uses that might be earlier, but I suspect they are more modern commentary.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.